With China and Russia embracing hypersonic weapons capable of evading U.S. missile shields, the Pentagon is spending billions of dollars on infrared sensor satellites to counter the threat. Kelle Wendling, the new president of L3Harris Technologies’ Space Systems sector, says U.S. programs are not moving as fast as they could be.
In the global race for geopolitical dominance, hypersonic glide weapons level the playing field “not by improving their own capabilities, but by removing ours,” said Mike Griffin.
China and Russia have watched the United States display its military power, much of it enabled by satellites in space. China’s recent demonstration of an orbital hypersonic weapon and Russia blowing up a satellite are expected countermoves, said Lt. Gen. B. Chance Saltzman.
“We're not as advanced as the Chinese or the Russians in terms of hypersonic programs,” Gen. David Thompson said Nov. 20. at the Halifax International Security Forum.
Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. John Hyten warned that bureaucratic inertia and fear of failing are thwarting innovation in the Department of Defense while China continues to roll out new military and space technologies.
China’s reported tests of a hypersonic orbital glide vehicle show notable advances in reusable space technology, an industry expert said.
The deployment of sensor satellites in low Earth orbit to fill blind spots in the U.S. missile defense system is finally moving from the drawing board to actual space hardware.
Sensors in space that can detect and track hypersonic missiles should be at the top of DoD’s wish list, Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. John Hyten said Aug. 11.
The Air Force Research Laboratory awarded SpaceX an $8.5 million contract to investigate manufacturing techniques for heat shields that protect hypersonic vehicles in flight.
A June 5 solicitation for a “tracking phenomenology experiment” is a step in the development of a sensor network in space to track hypersonic missiles.
Hypersonic capabilities have the potential to rewrite the balance of power across land, sea, air and space. We need to demystify the technology to ensure the nation makes the necessary investments to secure U.S. leadership in hypersonics over the next decade.
Northrop Grumman, Raytheon, Leidos and L3Harris will develop competing prototypes.
Hyten agrees with SDA Director Fred Kennedy that DoD should rapidly develop a space sensor constellation in LEO.